Tag Archives: Half Marathon

Newport Half Marathon: Let’s Run Together!

By this point, I’ve written a few “let’s run together!” posts. Last year thanks to my silly stress reaction they were both busts and I didn’t run (but I did cheer, and get called a bitch for cowbelling at 9am, LOLZ)… but this year is different! I posted about and actually ran the Newport 10k, and it’s almost time for the Newport Half… and I want you to come run with me!

The Newport Half runs basically along a similar route that I run almost every time I lace up my sneakers and head out the door in Jersey City. It’s flat, fast, and timed perfectly; mid-September, which allows you to get in a decent half marathon and see where all those humid slogfest miles have gotten you, right before your fall marathon! Here are some of the details:

What: Newport Half Marathon

When: September 17, 2016 at 8:30am

Where: Newport Town Square – 100 Town Square Pl Jersey City, NJ 07310

Background: Jersey City’s popular half marathon championship marks its 23rd year! Recreational and elite runners from around the country can compete for $3,000 in prize money on a USA Track & Field-certified course that interweaves with the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway from Newport to Liberty State Park.

Beneficiary: Proceeds are being donated to the Jersey City Medical Center, the area’s newest regional teaching hospital, proving the highest level of care for women, infants, and trauma and heart patients.

Registration Price: $50

Seriously, come run with me! Or if you’re in the area, come out and cheer! It was absolutely beautiful last year and I had a fun time cheering. I’m planning to go out for a beer (and food) afterwards… so the more the merrier! And even if you can’t make it this year, keep it in mind for next year.

You can use this link to sign up!

If you’re registered (or wind up registering because of this post), let me know!

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Let’s Run Together!

Back in February I had a post called “Come Run With Me!” It was before I had the dreaded injury, and I was all set to run the Newport 10k in Jersey City, and I wanted you to join me. While I didn’t get to run, I did cheer and get called an ‘asshole’ for cowbelling at 9am. But that’s besides the point. Lucky for me, they also host a half marathon in September so I’m going to run that… and I want you to run it with me!!

Similar to the 10k, this is a race I have yet to do, despite living in Jersey City for almost two years. It’s in September, so it actually fits in really nicely with people’s longer training runs for upcoming fall marathons. I’m scheduled to run 18 miles that day, so why not do 13.1 with a few hundred people? I mean, I’d be running in Jersey City anyway! So when I saw it would work with my schedule this year, I immediately signed up. Then, as luck would have it, I was contacted and asked if I was interested in being a VIP Blogger for the race. Of course I said yes! So seriously, let’s run this together!

What: Newport Half Marathon

When: September 18, 2016 at 8:30am

Where: Newport Town Square – 100 Town Square Pl Jersey City, NJ 07310

Background: Jersey City’s popular half marathon championship marks its 23rd year! Recreational and elite runners from around the country can compete for $3,000 in prize money on a USA Track & Field-certified course that interweaves with the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway from Newport to Liberty State Park.

Beneficiary: Proceeds are being donated to the Jersey City Medical Center, the area’s newest regional teaching hospital, proving the highest level of care for women, infants, and trauma and heart patients.

Registration Price: $50

Seriously, come run with me! Or if you’re in the area, come out and cheer! It was absolutely beautiful last year and I had a fun time cheering. I’m planning to go out for a beer (and food) afterwards… so the more the merrier! And even if you can’t make it this year, keep it in mind for next year.

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Race Recap: Asbury Park Half Marathon

This past Saturday I ran my 11th half marathon since I started seriously running in 2009. After running into some IT Band issues in January while training for the Shamrock Half, I decided to pick a goal race a little further out to give me extra breathing room with my training. I settled on the Asbury Park Half Marathon (part of “Runapalooza”) since it was a day before the New Jersey Marathon, which gave me the flexibility to cheer for all my friends the next day. I should have known that when I signed up for yet another race along a shoreline, the wind would be an issue. But as runners, we’re good at forgetting the painful parts about races and training runs, aren’t we?

The race started at 8:30am, but since I’m an hour away from Asbury Park, it was a super early morning. Thankfully since it was so early, there wasn’t any traffic on the way down. I got to the Convention Hall just after 7 a.m. which gave me plenty of time to pick up my bib, take a trip to the portopotties, and meet up with teammate Lauren and #brobird GB!

Photos courtesy of Lauren + GB. Yes, both Gregg and I are wearing Rogas. Who wore it better?!

Photos courtesy of Lauren + GB. Yes, both Gregg and I are wearing Rogas. Who wore it better?!

It was pretty chilly in the morning, but by the time I walked out of the Convention Hall and lined up for the race the sun was shining and it was relatively warm. The race started just after 8:30, and I made an effort to get out front and in a comfortable position. While that mile should have been relatively easy, I wound up clocking a 7:08 (a solid 30 seconds faster than what I initially wanted to start with). I was nervous to have such a fast first mile, but I decided to go with it. I found myself in a group of about 4 men and a woman that were all going about the same pace, and I tried to tuck in with them as best I could to alleviate some of the headwind. I ran the next three or so miles with them in 7:16, 7:22, 7:21.

Hangin' with the boys

Hangin’ with the boys

There were a lot of turns on this course. I mean, a lot. I tried to run the tangents as best as I could, but at some points I was so tired of running a block, and turning. And running a block, and turning. There was a nice out and back around mile 5 that was relatively calm in terms of the wind, and it was nice to see the leaders come through for the first time. Since it was a small race, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to start counting the women to see where I was. As it turned out, I was the 10th woman as we made our way around the turn to head back towards the boardwalk. I’ve never been in a lead pack before, and it was surreal to have people running in as we were running back out and cheering for us! I grabbed some water at the water stop, and tucked myself in and ran comfortably with three other women and let them do the work for a bit. I have to admit, all of the articles I’ve read recently about elite runners and their racing strategies paid off during this race when it came to pack running and using other runners!

"YAY I LOVE RUNNING"

“YAY I LOVE RUNNING”

Of course by the time we made it to the boardwalk around mile 7, there was a lot of wind. I kept a pretty solid pace the first 9 or so miles (aside from my way-too-fast start), but by the time we turned for the last 3.1 miles, the wind was gusting right in my face, and I was tired. It was also slightly defeating to run right past the finish line at mile 9 and know you still have 4 miles to go. Miles 5 through 9 were 7:22, 7:09, 7:14, 7:11, 7:16. I bargained with myself to take it easier miles 10 and 11, and that I’d pick it up the last 2 miles. I picked off three of the other women I had been running with earlier, and just tried to hang on. I ran miles 10 and 11 in 7:26 and 7:22. As it turned out, the wind was worse during the last two miles, so they were actually the slowest of the entire race! I’m obviously not proud of that, but I know that in those moments I was doing everything I could just to fight through the wind. At one point a woman I had passed earlier came up on my heels, and I could tell she was trying to use me as her wind shield. I slowed down because I didn’t want to do the work for her, and I let her go. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough fight in me to stick with her, but I’m glad she passed me at mile 12.5 without making me do the work for her, rather than her just blowing past me at the end after a mile of me being her wind breaker. And despite all the negative split, progression, and fast-finish training runs I did over the last few months, miles 12 and 13 were my slowest by nearly 10 seconds – 7:37 and 7:35.

Sprint to the finish!

Sprint to the finish!

By the time I made the final turn back onto the boardwalk for my attempt at a quarter mile sprint to the finish, I was thrilled to not only be able to see the finish line, but to see a solid 1:36 on the clock. I pushed it to my ultimate puke pace, and managed to cross the finish line at 1:36:51. It took me a few minutes to gather myself (I felt like every possible bodily function was about to happen at once – yum), and then it hit me. I PR’d by nearly five minutes from my time at Shamrock in March, and I crossed the finish line of a half marathon with 1,131 finishers as the 33rd runner, 8th woman, and 2nd in my age group! Oh, and yes… I am wearing $5 sunglasses from Five Below. So stylish.

Sweet medal, wouldn't you say?

Sweet medal, wouldn’t you say?

Going into this race I really wanted to PR. I was hopeful I could run a 1:38, but I really wanted to be under 1:40… I even said I’d be happy with a 1:39:59! So a 1:36 was way beyond what I thought I was capable of running. A lot of people seem to tell me I’m faster that I think I am… and I’m finally starting to realize that (maybe just a little). I’m really looking forward to a summer of short and fast races followed by a fall marathon PR. It’s time the marathon and I have another date since I have unfinished business with her… almost an hour’s worth!

Tell me…
Did you race this weekend? How did it go?!
What’s next on your running calendar?

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Shamrocked: A Bird-filled Half Marathon

This past weekend, I took a trip down to Virginia Beach to run the Anthem Half Marathon during the Shamrock Marathon weekend. I’d heard wonderful things about the race, and when it became an option for a Spring Oiselle Team meet-up, I penciled the race into my calendar and set my sights on a PR attempt. But when my IT Band started to act up at the end of December (and it lasted through most of January), I readjusted my goals and figured I’d use it as a training run instead. But, running related things don’t often go according to plan when I’m involved.

I woke up bright and early (actually it was still pitch black) on Saturday morning and after a quick stop at Starbucks, I was on my way. The trip down was uneventful (thankfully) and I made it to the expo at the Virginia Beach convention center in just under 6 hours. The expo was pretty empty, so I was able to pick up my bib, grab my t-shirt, and get my beer tent bracelet in a matter of minutes. After the expo, I checked into the hotel and quickly changed so I could get in a shake-out run before our Oiselle team dinner. As soon as  I changed and realized that the beach was right outside the hotel, I had to make a stop to take some no-snow pictures. It was so great to be outside in a tank top and shorts and not freezing!

No snow!

No snow!

My three mile shake-out run was rather uneventful, but I did have a cyclist come up from behind and stop to tell me I made it look easy. I wanted to reply “Maybe now… but wait until mile 12 tomorrow!” Instead I said thank you, chatted about the weather for a bit, and was on my way back to the hotel with just enough time to shower and head over to dinner with the team. The wonderful Mollie organized our team dinner at Bravo! and I had the pleasure of chatting with Allie (my shoe/jacket/birthday twin), Ellen (my favorite Shittens distributor), and Hollie (who has finally accepted the fact that she lives in NJ now) for the majority of the dinner. We butchered the menu they provided (us runners can be such high-maintenance!), but had a ton of fun telling ridiculous stories and getting to know each other better. At some point during dinner gelato was mentioned, and we were lucky to find a place down the street thanks to Yelp! So never being one to turn down dessert, I got myself a cone with salted caramel and chocolate hazelnut crunch gelato. And yes, it was amazing as it sounds!

Shamrock Half

The post-dinner festivities included heading back to the hotel, getting everything together for the morning, and trying to convince my body to go to bed at 9pm. Of course that didn’t work, but I’m pretty sure I was sound asleep by about 10pm. Unfortunately, the walls of the hotel seemed to be paper thin, and the people in the room next door had very loud, deep voices. They were likely in town to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so it was no surprise when I was woken up around 1:30am by the sound of their voices. After laying in bed angry for the first 20 minutes or so, I realized that when the AC unit kicked on, it was loud enough to drown out their voices. So I got up and set the thermostat to about 60 degrees in hopes of it not shutting off, and tried to go back to bed. The next thing I knew, it was 4:45am and my alarm was going off. Woof!

Race morning was the usual routine, and I made my way to the start (a mile from my hotel) at about 6:15am. I had just enough time to take off all my layers and get in the corral before it was time to start. I spent a few minutes looking around for other Oiselle teammates that I knew would be in the first corral, but I didn’t see anyone (they were likely further to the front, since they’re speedsters!). I also tried to look for the 1:45 pacer, but didn’t see them either. My plan was to run with the 1:45 group for the first 8 or so miles, and then pick it up depending on how I felt at that point, since it was just a training run. Before I knew it the clock was at 6:59am, ad we were counting down to the start… and at 7am we were off!

Shamrock Half

The course was pancake flat, so I knew my only struggle would be with the wind. The winds were around 20mph, but they were pretty light during the first few miles. I usually roll my eyes when people say things like, “before I knew it, we were at mile 6!” but I really felt that way on Sunday. At some moments, I’d be begging for the next mile marker, but for the majority of the race I’d look down at my watch and think, “wow! I’ve gone that far already?!” I have to say it was a great feeling! It wasn’t until mile 7 or so when the wind started to really become an issue. We turned into a Naval Base, and we were right up against the water, with nothing shielding us from the wind. I tried to park myself behind and alongside some other runners, but no one seemed to be keeping a consistent enough pace… and it didn’t really help either. I’d say the hardest miles were miles 6 through 9, mostly because of the wind. My first 9 miles were 7:51, 7:53, 7:48, 7:45, 7:54, 7:50, 7:47, 7:51, and 7:52. Talk about consistency! By the time I got to mile 9 and realized I only had 4 miles to go and that I still had a little energy left, I decided to pick it up. It was a mile later than I had originally planned, but my overall pace was about 10-15 seconds faster than I thought I’d be at that point so I didn’t worry much. I ran my 10th mile in 7:36, and realized that if I could just hold on for the last 5k, I would likely PR. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up the pace, but I figured I’d give it a shot!

Those last three miles seemed to go on forever, but when I saw Rebecca fly by around mile 11, I got the little push I needed for those last two miles. The wind smacked me in the face right after mile 12 as we turned towards the beach to head onto the boardwalk for the final mile, but I happened to see Paulette running by and cowbelling right as as I made that final turn which was a welcomed distraction and boost of encouragement. As she yelled for me and I lifted my hand to wave, I realized that my fingers and hands were basically frozen. I tried to wave but only mustered up a little t-rex arm movement (which I’ve since decided will be my new race photo pose). Miles 11 and 12 were 7:33 and 7:34 respectively.

Bye, boys!

Bye, boys!

The boardwalk was nice and wide (and cement, not wood, thankfully), and I was pretty  much alone for that last stretch. I was in a group of three guys for the last 2 miles or so that were counting down for each other and saying things like “Alright, just one mile to go. This is nothing! You can do it!” and while I was thinking the same thing in my head at the time, it was nice to finally break from them in that last mile. As soon as I could see the finish line arch, I looked at my watch, realized I’d PR, and decided to book it and hope for the best. I ran mile 13 in 7:21, and crossed the finish line with a final time of 1:41:39… a PR of just under a minute and a half! I grabbed my finisher hat and towel (Virginia races have the best swag – fleece blanket at Richmond, and now this!), medal, and some food, and quickly put on all the layers; I was cold!

Shamrock Half

I made my way to the party tent, got myself a Yuengling beer immediately, and roamed around until I found some of my Oiselle teammates! There were a lot of PRs and strong racing by everyone, and after our celebratory beer, we headed to a local coffee shop for some much needed coffee and food. Before I knew it it was early afternoon, and I headed back to the hotel to foam roll, and most importantly, take a hot shower. By the time I was on my way back to my hotel the wind had really picked up, but I was distracted by all the marathon finishers in their final two miles.

Can you tell we're all freezing? And wearing the same sneakers?

Can you tell we’re all freezing? And wearing the same sneakers?

Overall, I absolutely loved this race. All of the volunteers and spectators seemed to be enjoying themselves, the course was flat and fast, and it was in a great location. Getting to meet up with so many wonderful Oiselle teammates that I felt like I already knew was an added bonus. I’d love to do this race again!

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Running Update: Setbacks & Moving Forward

Running was going really well for me during the late fall and early winter. I PR’d two races (5 miler and 5k) and was crushing workouts and loving the run. I was running 6 days in a row with a long run, a tempo/workout run, and 4 “easier” days of running all together. It was a big adjustment to the type of “training” I’ve done in the past, but it was already producing results, and I felt great. I was being diligent about my pre-run warm-ups, and was actually doing post-run prehab, albeit not as frequently as I should have. I let time get in the way of things, and found myself coming in from a run, hopping right in the shower or getting started on dinner, and then going about my business and forgetting to do the routine that was scheduled. Well, that naturally resulted in a little bit of an overuse injury – dreaded ITBS.

I noticed a twinge when I would go from sitting down to standing up after a 10 mile run on December 21st. I didn’t think much of it, and continued the next week as normally scheduled. Looking back, I should have spent some extra time foam rolling and doing some strength work, but I didn’t. By the time I got to Christmas Eve, as I finished up an epic tempo run, I felt that dreaded tightness on the outside of my right knee. It’s a feeling I know all too well, as I’ve experienced it during almost every marathon I’ve run around mile 21. It wasn’t painful, but I knew exactly what it was. Since it was slight, I was hopeful that it wasn’t much of anything, and Christmas morning’s 4 mile run would be fine. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Yes this is what I wore when I ran Christmas morning.

Yes this is what I wore when I ran Christmas morning.

Christmas morning’s run was painful, and I knew the ITBS I thought I had was, in fact, ITBS… and that it wasn’t going to just go away. The run on 12/25 was the beginning of a month of on and off runs, most peppered with knee pain. The pain would start about a mile and a half in, and come and go depending on my stride. Sometimes it was brutally painful, and other times it was manageable. But I’m happy to report that after a month of rest and rehab, I’m back on the streets and running! I think it’s so important for runners to take the time to do a warm-up before they start a run, and to also do some type of post-run prehab routine. There are a few things in particular that I found to be extremely helpful as I battled ITBS, and I wanted to share them with you!

  •  Strength Running’s ITB Rehab Routine – If there’s one thing I’ve learned with the injuries I’ve sustained over my short running career so far, it’s that having strong hips, glutes, and core can be the difference between pain free and fast running, and sitting on the couch whining about how you can’t run. This routine focuses on strengthening the glutes and hips, which is where the ITB starts. All you need is a resistance band and about 5 minutes post-run. I did this daily during the month of January, and now do it 2-3 times a week.
  • Mrtyl Routine – This also focuses on the general glute and hip area, and doesn’t require any equipment. I also do this about 2 times a week.
  • Core work: Strength Running’s Standard Core Routine & Dr. Lesko’s Dozen Routine – Let me tell you, having a flat stomach does not mean you have a strong core (not that my stomach is flat). I always thought my core was decent, since I swam for so many years and a lot of power comes from your core, but I’m learning that is not true. Both of these routines are more than just crunches, and they work your entire core. The supine leg lifts in the Standard Core routine are killer, and I dread that part of the workout every single time… but I know they help, and I’m looking forward to the day where I can get through it without shaking uncontrollably and not counting down every second of the minute.
  • Foam Rolling – it’s awkward and it hurts, but it works. I don’t particularly enjoy it, and for awhile, I just didn’t do it. I bought a foam roller about 2 years ago when I had tight hips, but I just couldn’t get into a regular routine. I learned quickly, though, that the foam roller is really helpful – whether you have an injury or not. I try to spend about 5 minutes everyday foam rolling my hips, hamstrings, quads, and calves. If nothing else, it helps build my upper body strength as I’m trying to hold myself up while using the roller.

I’ve been running again consistently for two full weeks and am just starting my third. I have my fingers crossed that this little bout of ITBS is behind me, and I can carry on with training as scheduled for the month of February. How do I feel about finally being back in action? See below.

Hooray for pain free running!

Hooray for pain free running!

That being said, I don’t think the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on March 16th is going to be a PR attempt. Unless training over the next few weeks goes fantastically (and it warms up and stops snowing and being icy), I don’t think I’ll have my fitness back up to where it was in December. So, my plan is to run the Shamrock Half as a workout, and run a goal half in April instead. There are quite a few around me, so after weighing my options and chatting with my coach, I decided on the Asbury Park Half on 4/26! This is the day before the New Jersey Marathon, so I’ll be able to cheer for everyone running the half or full on Sunday! Since it’s down the shore it should be relatively flat – I just hope it isn’t a windy day. I’m also planning to work a few other short local races into my schedule, but I haven’t committed to anything yet (as you can see from my Races page).

Tell me…
Have you ever dealt with ITBS? 
What’s your favorite runner specific strength routine?

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Race Recap: Richmond Half Marathon

Another half marathon is in the books!

My weekend at the Richmond Marathon wasn’t exactly what I had planned it to be when I signed up for the race back in June. My intentions were to run the full marathon, and PR the heck out of it, but unfortunately I wound up with some annoying ankle and foot pain that caused my training to be really inconsistent all summer. So rather than wallow in my inability to run the full marathon, I switched to the half and decided I’d use it as a long tempo run, and a point to assess my fitness level.

The race was on Saturday, so we drove to Virginia early on Friday  morning and stopped at the expo first. We had dinner plans with Dori and Andy, and actually wound up getting to the expo at the same time as them, so we wandered around a bit before heading to the hotel. I don’t usually buy things from expos, but I saw these cute little Richmond running socks and had to have them. Most of my socks fall just below the ankle, and with the temperatures slowly but surely dropping, I figured my ankles would appreciate some coverage for those bone chilling winter runs that will be here before I know it.

Cute socks!

Cute socks!

We had dinner at Edo’s Squid which served it’s purpose for carb loading, and made it an early night. The forecast for the weekend had looked great in the days prior, but on Friday we noticed that there was supposed to be some overnight rain, that would likely stop in the early morning hours. I didn’t even think to pack a hat, extra socks, or anything to help shield me from the rain. So you can imagine my disappointment when I woke up to rain at 5am on Saturday morning. I figured it would taper off as I made my way to the starting area, but unfortunately just the opposite happened. The hotel was only a 5 minute walk from the start, but by the time I got there I was soaking wet. I knew my race day outfit would hold up wet in the rain, but I was a little nervous about my socks and the ankle brace I was wearing – the last thing you want is rain induced blisters! I saw Oiselle teammate Ellen right before the start, who rocked a serious PR! The rain stopped long enough for me to shed my throwaway sweatshirt in the starting corral, and after a less than enthusiastic start (the announcer was so not excited), we were off promptly at 7:30am.

The first few miles were rather uneventful. I did see Oiselle teammate and super speedy #fasterasamaster Allie cheering within the first mile which was a nice way to start the race! I had some pain in what I can only describe as my big toe joint, but prior to the race when I was poking and prodding around, I realized it was actually the tendon in my foot that was tight (the one that controls the up/down motion of your toes). It was rather uncomfortable in those first few miles, and at a few points I thought to myself “do I really have to run 13.1 miles feeling like this? Is this a bad idea?” Thankfully as the miles went on, the pain lessened. My goal wasn’t to all out race, but rather to push it to about a 90% effort level to get a good workout, and enjoy the morning. The first few miles were impressively conservative, which is rare for me. I usually feel awesome and ignore logic, which I pay for later. Dare I say I’m finally learning?!

The only remotely attractive photo taken. Jazz hands!

The only remotely attractive photo taken. Jazz hands!

There were a few points in the second half where I wasn’t sure if my initial pacing had been too fast. I originally assumed I’d run about a 1:50, but within the last few weeks of training realized I could probably run a little faster without needing to push too much. So even though I was sopping wet and starting to get tired, I decided to keep the pace going, knowing there were only a few miles left. As a distraction I spent the majority of the race thinking about everyone running the full marathon, excited to see their splits on my phone when I finished. I assumed my pace had been about the same the entire race, but I was consistently picking people off as I was making my way through the final miles, which was a confidence booster. I also think it’s what led me to speeding up that last 5k.

I remember hearing the finish line is no joke – that it’s a serious downhill. I was so excited for this downhill finish since it seems like most races I run end uphill (why?!). With just under a mile left, I could see the top of a giant hill which I assumed was what we’d be running down in a matter of minutes. And after two quick turns, it was time to make our way down; it was so steep, when I was at the top I couldn’t even see the bottom! Because of the rain, I made sure not to just let the hill carry me down, so I had to do a little work to hold myself back to make sure I didn’t wind up face-planting. Naturally the thirteenth mile was my fastest (7:29!), I didn’t fall, and I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:45:31! I grabbed a water, my sweet finisher fleece blanket (perfect for the rainy day), and made my way over to get my checked bag so I could change. 

Another for the collection

Another for the collection

As soon as I finished I realized just how tough that last downhill was – my quads were suddenly SO tired. I quickly changed, grabbed a slice of pizza and a PowerBar, hung out in the finishers area for a bit, and then made my way up to get some Starbucks before snagging a spot right at mile 26 to cheer on the marathoners!

It was such a shame the weather was crappy – I could tell despite the gray and rainy day that the course was beautiful. We went through a few neighborhoods that had some beautiful homes, and a big park that probably would be great to run in on a sunny day. Despite the less than stellar weather, there were SO many spectators, and I was shocked! I assumed the course would have a few people here and there, but the likelihood of someone standing outside at 8am on a rainy Saturday morning was slim. Much to my surprise there were spectators everywhere, and in those moments where the rain picked up, so did the cheers from the crowds. It was really awesome!

All in all it was a great race, and I would absolutely do it again. I’d also love to be able to do the full marathon! The next “big” race I have on my calendar right now is the Shamrock Half Marathon, coincidentally back down in Virginia in March. I’m hoping to PR the 13.1 distance at the race, which I think is possible since Saturday’s run was only 2 minutes off my PR from this past spring, and it didn’t require a lot of effort. Can’t what to see what winter training has in store for me.

Anyone have any big races coming up?
What’s next on your schedule?

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Running Update: Marathoning

For those of you that have been following along, you know I was struggling with some weird undiagnosed pain in my right ankle & foot for most of July and August. Early signs of marathon training in June pointed to a successful training cycle, and the chances of me crushing my current PR were high. But, after two months of inconsistent training, I knew it wasn’t logical to think I would be able to successfully (and easily) complete marathon training by the November 16th race date for the Richmond Marathon. So in what seems to be like an unfortunately common theme among a lot of my runner friends right now, I had to pass on the 2013 Richmond Marathon.

The good news, though, is that my ankle and foot are 90-95% better, depending on the day, and the run. I was able to run in Disneyland with no problems! Since I already paid for a hotel room, I decided to drop down to the half since they provide the option for only $10. So at least I’ll still get to run part of America’s friendliest marathon!

This leaves me with a new problem, though… finding an early winter marathon! My initial thoughts are to run the Rehoboth Beach Marathon on December 7th, since it isn’t too far away from me and doesn’t have to be a big weekend away. But that only gives me an extra three weeks of training, putting me at about a 12 week cycle. Any other races would obviously be in different locations (South, West, etc.) because the weather in January and February around here is not exactly marathon friendly. Thankfully I’ve been able to bounce these ideas off of my coach, Steph, so I’m confident we’ll be able to come up with the best solution soon.

In the meantime I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed that all of these annoying pains are gone for good. I’ve been trying to be as diligent as possible with cross-training and ankle, foot, and leg strengthening exercises, while also working on my core and upper body. I’ve always known how important it is to condition your whole body and how great cross-training is, but I’m realizing it more now than ever. I just have to remind myself when I’m feeling lazy or unmotivated that these few minutes here and there can mean the difference between running pain free, or being sidelined.

So tell me…
Do you have any good cross-training or exercises you do for your feet, ankles, and/or legs I should be trying? 
Know of any great December, January, or February marathons I should consider? 

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Running with Friends: Nike Women’s Half Marathon

A week after I completed my 6th half marathon, I completed my 7th! When I signed up for the inaugural Nike Women’s Half in D.C., I knew I would use the race as a training run (albiet an expensive one), since my goal race had been only a week earlier. It was the perfect opportunity to visit a new city, run, meet up with friends, and score myself a Tiffany’s necklace.

We arrived in D.C. on Saturday afternoon and headed straight to the expo. The line was super long, but I got lucky and found one of my college friends in line, and just hopped in with them. I picked up my bib and pace bracelet, and took a quick walk through the “expotique.” I’m not usually a fan of expos because they’re crowded and cramped, and this was no exception. There wasn’t much to it; there was a hair styling station, a Nuun station (which I would have loved to check out, but the line was just too long), a Luna bar station, and a Team in Training station all under a pop-up tent by the water. And I think that was it? It seemed like they really wanted people to head to Nike Georgetown, but I wasn’t in the market for anything so we headed out.

All bib'd up!

All bib’d up!

The race started early on Sunday morning (7am!), so I was up around 4:30a and going through my pre-race routine. Despite writing a post last week about what I always make sure to pack for races, I managed to forget a PB&J sandwich and a gel for during the race. I think I forgot because I wasn’t really treating it as a race, but it wound up being okay. The hotel was only about a mile away, so I decided to walk to the start rather than dealing with the metro. I had talked with Krissy and Ashley beforehand, and we decided to run together planning to keep it around 8:45 average, and picking it up if we felt good along the way. After snapping a quick picture we headed into our corral, got to hear Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson be introduced (we couldn’t see them though), and then we were off!

Me, Krissy, Ashley, and Ritsa!

Me, Krissy, Ashley, and Ritsa!

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this race had 15,000 runners!! Let me tell you, we could feel it pretty much the entire time. I’ve always said that I have never experienced a run that “just flew by.” But I can honestly say that this run felt that way. No, it wasn’t the best run ever, and I didn’t even feel that great. But running with Krissy and Ashley, sharing laughs and stories, and just doing something we love on a beautiful course was SO much fun. It made me realize that I need to run with friends more!

SO MUCH FUN

SO MUCH FUN

The race itself wasn’t anything special – it was hot (it looked like I peed my pants by the end of the race I sweat so much!), crowded, and in all honesty, I probably would have hated every minute of it if I had been alone. But I just kept reminding myself that a pretty little blue box and cute finisher’s t-shirt was waiting for me at the finish. We finished in 1:58:34, with our actual running pace just around 8:50, but we took a pit stop around mile 6 which put us at the 9 minute average. After the race Ashley and I headed to brunch at The Mad Hatter (I’ll have a separate post on food later!) for delicious breakfast burritos and BOOZE to round out a pretty awesome morning.

Wahoo, finish line in sight!

Wahoo, finish line in sight!

I’m planning on running a bunch of 5k’s between now and the fall, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be running the Richmond Marathon in November. So I just need to stay healthy… which didn’t work out so well since I came home from the trip with the stomach virus. But I’m back at it today, thankfully!

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Racecation: The Essentials

When I first started running I insisted on only running races that were within a 30 minute radius from where I lived. The thought of having to pack extra stuff, sleep in an unfamiliar bed, and travel to and from a race location just didn’t appeal to me. But as I got more into running and became a part of the running community, I realized that traveling for races is just part of the territory. Considering I did it for years while I swam, I don’t know why this concept seemed so unappealing to me. Plus, if I can add in a few days for “vacation,” I’ll gladly do it! Hence the name “racecation” (which I stole from Krissy). While I’m no expert, I’ve certainly traveled to my fair share of races since I’ve started running, and thought it would be helpful to share my racecation essentials!

Obviously the most important thing to include when packing is your race day outfit and sneakers. I quadruple check when I’m packing just to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. All I need is to show up to a race without all of my outfit or my sneakers and break the cardinal rule of “nothing new on race day.” And of course if you’re partial to music while running or a watch, those are just as important as what you plan on wearing. I suppose the rest is negligible as long as you have what you plan on racing in, but it’s nice to take into consideration what you’d be comfortable in before and after the race… especially if your vacation involves a lot of walking (hello Disney!).

Oiselle Kit & Mizuno Wave Riders!

Oiselle Kit & Mizuno Wave Riders!

For any race I attend, whether it’s 15 minutes away or 15 hours away, I always bring my spike bag with the same stuff in it. I don’t always head right home after races that are nearby, so it’s important that I have things with me to make myself somewhat presentable in public (I use the term loosely). For me, that means some type of body wipe, body spray, face wipes, and deodorant. I also bring a full change of clothes. Depending on the weather and where I’m going, I may do a full or partial change, usually in the backseat of my car. What can I say, I’m a serious (salty) sweater, that has no problem changing in public.

Free Speed Stick from a race? Don't mind if I do! I'm cool with smelling like a man.

Free Speed Stick from a race? Don’t mind if I do! I’m cool with smelling like a man.

Once I’m actually home or back at the hotel and showered, I dress based on my plans for the day. But, if I ran a half marathon or longer, I usually throw on a pair of compression socks or sleeves for good measure as well. Sneakers are usually the way to go for me right after a race, but sometimes my feet are okay with a pair of Toms or flip flops. I also bought a pair of Aspaeris compression shorts back when I was training for Chicago, and let me tell you, those things are magical. I tend to have tight hips after races, so these keep me nice and snug, and because they are SO tight, you can wear them under pretty much anything. Secret compression at it’s finest!

Why yes, I am wearing compression shorts under this dress!

Why yes, I am wearing compression shorts under this dress!

Now aside from looking presentable and not being smelly, I’m also particular when it comes to my pre and post race nutrition (surprise?). For every single race I’ve traveled to (which are all half marathons or marathons), I bring my own peanut butter and bread. This may sound ridiculous because they’re pretty basic staples, but I don’t like the idea of risking not having it come race morning. I’ve found that the single serve packs of peanut butter work best, either with regular sandwich bread or a bagel. I also bring a ton of Picky Bars with me for before and after the race because I know they don’t upset my stomach at all, and they’re delicious. And now that I’m a new Nuun hydration convert, a tube of that comes along with me, too.

My favorite flavors!

My favorite flavors!

I’m one of those people that packs days in advance, so I’ve been packed for the Nike Women’s Half since Wednesday. I know, it’s weird… but it goes along with my heavy planning nature. I get so excited I just can’t help myself!

So tell me… 
What are your racecation essentials? 

PS – Don’t forget to enter my Food Should Taste Good Chips Giveaway… you have until Monday !

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Running United: Half Marathon Recap

I had an entire post about the Boston Marathon tragedy written, but just couldn’t bring myself to publish it. There aren’t any words or profound revelations I can write here that haven’t been said by so many already (and more eloquently, I might add) to truly express how I feel. Simply put,  as a runner I feel like my friends were attacked, and as a human being I’m horrified… and I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

The running community really is something special; there seems to be an unwritten understanding between runners. We’re able to be competitive with one another, while simultaneously lamenting in each other’s pain, and celebrating each other’s success. I know a lot of other runners feel the same way, but that little nod, wave, or half smile you get from another runner while you’re deep into your own run is so much more than a simple acknowledgement. For a brief moment, it’s a shared connection with a complete stranger. I think I love these encounters because I am usually running by myself.

So when I toed the line for the RU Unite Half Marathon this past Sunday, the race’s name had even more meaning. This race was my goal race for the Spring, and based on my training and racing throughout the winter, it seemed like I would have little problem setting a new PR. The last two weeks of training were lackluster due to super tight calves one week, and an pinched nerve in my neck the second, that was still around on race day. So of course, I started to doubt myself and my ability to run as fast as I had hoped. But I knew that I needed to try as hard as I could, while also being smart about the race. I go into races a lot with “plans,” but rarely wind up sticking to them. I swore to myself this time would be different.

Pre Race!

Pre Race!

Race day started like they all do – peanut butter & jelly, and some Nuun. The race is only about 10 minutes away, so I’m lucky that I don’t have to get up super early for the 8am start (but let’s be honest, 5:30am IS early). It was chilly, but thankfully I had a spectator with me so I was able to wear a fleece and sweatpants until I got into the corral. There is only one corral and it’s self-seeded, so I tried to position myself more towards the front than I have in past years, and wound up in front of the 8 minute pacers. My ultimate goal was to run a sub-8 average, but I did want to start out more conservatively. Remember when I said I had “plans”? Well, you can imagine those went out the window once the race started. Before we took off, there was a moment of silence for Boston and our troops, and they played “Sweet Caroline.” Of course I teared up and vowed to remind myself of that moment when the pain started to set in later in the race. Next thing I knew, it was go time.

I started out conservatively with my first mile at 8:05, while trying not to weave and expend any extra energy (though cut-offs make it inevitable). As with most longer runs, the first few miles flew by and when I checked my watch at mile 3, I realized I had definitely dipped under the 8 minute pace earlier than I had wanted. I felt good enough, though, so I decided just to go with it. The next 7 miles were a combination of me running too fast, then slowing down too much, and having waves of feeling awesome with waves of feeling like death. I’ve run this race every year since it started (in 2010) and it was actually my very first half marathon… so I have a special place in my heart for the course. So you would think I’d know how to best pace myself.

Homestretch Pain Face!

Homestretch Pain Face!

By the time I got to mile 10, I wanted the race to just be over. The thought of another 5k made me cringe. But I powered through the park I’ve spent so many summer mornings doing marathon long runs, and over to the final stretch. I actually saw Oiselle Teammate Jess right around mile 11, and she was the push I needed for those final 2 miles… with the most hills. Mile 11 was my slowest (well over 8 minutes), but by the time I got to 12 I tried to dig as deep as I could – especially once on College Avenue. Of course the home stretch felt like it went on forever, but once I crested the hill and saw the finish line I knew it was only a matter of seconds to get there. I couldn’t spot a clock near the finish, so I crossed and stopped my watch – 1:43:01 (which turns out was my official time, too)!

My time works out to be a 7:52 average, which I’m very happy with. After running my PR 10k race at the end of March, I plugged in my results to the McMillan calculator, which projected a 1:43:22… so I did a little better than expected! This wound up being a 4 minute and 42 second PR… and quick math made me realize that in the last three years since I started running half marathons (I’ve run a total of 6), I’ve managed to shave off 20 minutes from my first half marathon! The next big thing I need to tackle is my marathon time… hopefully I can get a good training cycle in this summer and rock out a killer PR in the fall.

After the race I headed to a newish (and new to me) coffee shop a town over with Oiselle Teammates Jess and Kate to talk running and enjoy a latte. Of course I headed to Red Robin a few hours later for my celebratory veggie burger, a tradition I’ve kept since I started running this race back in 2010! All in all it was a pretty great day, and I’m SO thankful to be part of such a great community. It might sound cheesy, but running and its community really is something special.

I’m running another half marathon this coming weekend, the Nike Women’s Half in Washington D.C., and I’m planning to enjoy the race with Krissy. Can’t wait for the Nuun aide stations, post-race Tiffany’s necklace as a medal, and post-race delicious cupcakes and museum visiting in D.C!

So tell me…
Who raced this weekend? PR? 
Anyone racing this weekend? Anyone running Nike?

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